The proposed Greenbelt would protect a continuous band of countryside across the middle of the Toronto Metropolitan Region,* preserving farms, woodlots, wetlands, and other identified natural features, that are gradually disappearing in the region. If successfully implemented, this would be a remarkable and historic accomplishment.
Yet the proposed plan will not solve the problem of protecting the vulnerable lands at the scale of the region. Most of the problems the government has vowed to rectify are not, in fact, confined to the Greenbelt. Most of the region's environmentally sensitive lands and features, and much of its prime agricultural land, lie outside the proposed Greenbelt and are already facing strong development pressure. A limited belt of protection will not only leave lands outside the belt vulnerable, but could actually increase pressure on them by deflecting development beyond the belt and by implying that they are somehow less deserving of protection.
As well, the proposed Greenbelt will do little to promote a more compact, efficient, transit-supportive form of development at the edges of the region's cities and towns. The plan would provide a swath of unprotected farmland more than twice the size of the City of Toronto between its southern and eastern boundaries and the current edge of urban development in the GTA and Hamilton. Without the introduction of a range of new policies, plans and programs, these lands will likely be converted over the coming decades to the same business-as-usual auto-dependent sprawl that the government aspires to avoid. In areas such as south Simcoe and Wellington Counties, the Greenbelt may engender unplanned "leapfrogging" beyond the belt.
Protecting the region's farmland and natural features, and encouraging more efficient and livable development are regional issues in nature and scope. Regional policies, plans and programs will be required to achieve these Provincial ambitions and the integration of the Greenbelt with the full range of measures for effective growth management.